How Dwight School on the Upper West Side Turns Students’ Passions into Purpose

The educational philosophy of Dwight School, an international school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, is “igniting a spark of genius in every child,” helps students thrive in academics as well as in life. Dwight School focuses on providing students with personalized learning, so each students’ path of education is tailored to his or her interests, whether it’s performing arts, trucks, a foreign language, or something else. Read on to learn how a ninth-grader is thriving at Dwight School through the performing arts.

“As a parent, what I really love is to see he is always really engaged in activities, in experiences and opportunities connected with his passion [the performing arts],” says Adriana Moura about her son Bernardo Sequeira, a ninth-grader at Dwight School, a preschool to 12th grade international school that offers the International Baccalaureate curriculum. Moura credits Bernardo thriving and being engaged to Dwight School’s educational philosophy of “igniting the spark of genius in every child,” meaning the school focuses on personalized learning so the path of education for each student is tailored to his or her interests.

“I believe that every student—every human being—has a spark of genius. Every student has something at which he or she excels or can excel, and it is our job as educators to inspire young people to find and pursue that passion,” says Stephen Spahn, Dwight School’s chancellor. “I know that I had the spark of genius in me, and my passion was to help students discover their own sparks. After more than 50 years at Dwight, it remains my mission to this day.”

Spahn’s passion about his vision was so genuine that it, in addition to the school’s international perspective combined with a welcoming community, was ultimately why Moura says she and her husband chose Dwight School for their children when they moved to NYC from Brazil in 2015.

Bernardo was in sixth grade then, and that year he participated in the middle school play. The director of the high school’s musical saw Bernardo’s performance. When one of the leads had to drop out of the musical, Bye Bye Birdie, 10 days before the performance, he asked Bernardo to fill the role. It “was a great starting point” for fulfilling his passion, Moura says.

As a ninth-grader, Bernardo has been in three high school musicals, the middle school shows from sixth-eighth grades, and has performed at Carnegie Hall and Steinway Hall. “He’s so happy, he has this confidence. It’s really what the spark of genius is about. It’s really about diving into something that’s connected to your passion and joy and this does service to all the other areas,” Moura says. “And the confidence and the joy that come from his experiences are much more than I could have ever dreamed of or planned in such a short period of time.”

Main image: Bernardo Sequeira as the announcer in Dwight School’s production of Chicago in April 2018
Courtesy Adriana Moura